Monday, May 30, 2016

UF Baseball: #1 Florida Finishes Runner-Up in 2016 SEC Tournament

For the second time in three seasons, the No. 1 Florida Gators (47-13) have ended their SEC Tournament run with a loss in the championship game.

Before I even dive into the shellacking that was the SEC Championship, let me first recap Florida's journey there. On Wednesday, the Gators played the longest game in tournament in history as they lost a 14-inning affair to the No. 7 LSU Tigers (42-18).

The next day, Florida turned around on less than 12 hours of sleep and beat Alabama (32-26) in an elimination game. Still not out of the woods yet though, Florida obliterated No. 3 Mississippi State (41-16-1) the next day to earn a rematch with LSU in the semifinals.

This time around, Florida prevailed behind timely hitting and superb pitching to set up a date with No. 2 Texas A&M (45-14) in the championship game. Here, Florida was finally figured out as the Aggies used two big innings to down the Gators and win their first ever SEC Championship.

Now that I've gone through the brief overview, let's take a more detailed look at each game.

No. 7 LSU (Second Round)
This meeting between these two SEC rivals was Florida's fourth straight game against the Tigers. On the other side, LSU was fortunate just to be in this game after overcoming a 4-3 ninth-inning deficit against the Tennessee Volunteers (29-28) in the first round.

This matchup was a dream for scouts everywhere as potential No. 1 overall pick A.J. Puk (2-3, 2.88 ERA) took the mound for Florida and Tiger ace Alex Lange (7-3, 3.56 ERA) toed the rubber for LSU.

Both pitchers threw extremely well. Puk had his longest outing all season as he went 7.1 innings and threw over 110 pitches. He allowed two earned runs on six hits, struck out seven, and walked two.

Lange matched Puk pitch for pitch, as he also threw over 100 pitches in seven innings and allowed two earned runs. He struck out 11 Gators while allowing five hits, walking three, and working out of bases loaded jam in the top of the first inning.

Florida's inability to knock Lange out earlier would come back to haunt them as they took a slim 2-0 lead into the eighth inning. With Puk still on the hill and one out, LSU began to rally when Antoine Duplantis doubled with one out. Following him, Jake Fraley singled and was able to advance to second base when Gator center fielder Buddy Reed made a mental error and fired the ball home as opposed to his cutoff man.

Seeing Fraley try to take the base, Gator backstop Mike Rivera made an errant throw to second base which allowed Duplantis to score and Fraley to advance to third base. The Tiger offense had awoken.

In an attempt to hold off LSU, Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan went to his bullpen and brought in All-SEC closer Shaun Anderson. The junior righty's first assignment would be LSU's best player: Kramer Robertson. This battle would result in the most controversial play of the game, and maybe even the tournament.

Robertson bounced a ball towards shortstop Dalton Guthrie, and the sophomore fired it towards the plate to gun down the tying run. Mike Rivera caught the ball and blocked the plate beautifully as he applied the tag to Fraley. Everyone knew Fraley was out, except umpire Jeff Head. He mistakenly called Fraley safe and the game was tied at two.

Rivera was livid! He chucked his mask to the ground and starting yelling at Head for his missed call. Soon enough, Sully was out of the dugout arguing on behalf of his catcher. Rivera was lucky to not get ejected for his actions. I don't blame him though, as I would have reacted the same way in his situation.

Despite the terrible call, the game was only tied and Florida had to focus on limiting the damage to just two runs. After Robertson stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch, LSU took a 3-2 lead when Bryce Jordan singled him in.

Now trailing, Florida had to muster up some offense with just six outs remaining. The Gators went down in order in the eighth and Anderson worked a perfect ninth to keep the score at 3-2. In the bottom of the ninth, Buddy Reed led off the inning with a double down the left field line.

This was originally ruled a foul ball as it hit substitute left fielder Brennan Breaux's glove and landed in foul territory. Upon further review, however, the call was overturned as Breaux was in the field of play when he touched the ball. As a result, Reed was awarded his double.

After Mike Rivera bunted Reed over to third, the Gators had two chances to knot this game up. The first opportunity went to freshman Nelson Maldonado, who struck out on three pitches. Now with two outs, Deacon Liput was Florida's last hope.

After a couple pitches, Liput drove a ball to the right side that found its way into the outfield for a game-tying RBI single!

From here, the marathon would begin as Florida and LSU played into the night to determine a winner. Four times the Gators put the winning run in scoring position and EACH TIME they failed to plate that runner. The most upsetting instance had to be in the bottom of the 11th inning. The Gators loaded the bases with no outs and needed just a deep fly ball to end the game.

With another chance to be a hero, Nelson Maldonado popped up to the infield for the first out. After Nelly, ninth inning hero Deacon Liput hit a shot down the third base line that should have ended the game. Yet somehow, LSU third baseman Chris Reid was able to snag the ball in the air and tag third base for an unassisted double play.

The inning was over and I was left in utter shock. I knew that at this point the Gators were in trouble. Three innings later, LSU finally broke through when pinch hitter Jordan Romero signaled home the go-ahead run off of Kirby Snead.

The Tigers would tack on one more run off of Michael Byrne to extend the lead to 5-3, and Florida would have no answer in the bottom of the 14th. Dane Dunning, who worked an incredible 4.1 innings of one-hit relief, would be charged with both the game-winning run and the loss. Conversely, LSU's Jesse Stallings would get the win as he pitched all of the extra frames and allowed just two hits.

Briefly highlighting some Gator hitters, Buddy Reed went 2-5 with a double, an RBI triple, a run, and one walk while Deacon Liput went 2-5 with an RBI single and a walk.

As I said in the intro, this was the longest game ever in the SEC Tournament as it lasted five hours and seven minutes. It was a tough loss for the Gators, as they had to turn around and play Alabama just 11 hours later.

Here are my final tidbits on the game:

  • Four Gators had doubles in the contest (Buddy Reed, JJ Schwarz, Jonathan India, and Mike Rivera)
  • The Gators stranded 12 runners on the base paths.
  • The Gators made an uncharacteristic two errors in the game.
  • Dalton Guthrie stole his eighth base of the season.
  • This is the eighth game in which A.J. Puk has been involved in that has ended in a Gator loss.
  • Though replay could be used to determine if Buddy Reed's double was fair or not, it could not be used to review the play at the plate in the eighth inning. This could be something we see changed in the future.

Alabama (Elimination Game)
In their first win-or-go home game of the tournament, Florida sent out freshman Brady Singer (2-2, 4.95 ERA) for his first collegiate start. He wasn't dominant but pitched well enough to keep the Gators in the game. In six innings of work, Singer allowed four earned runs on five hits while walking two and striking out none.

After walking and hitting a batter, Singer exited with two runners on base and no outs in the top of the seventh inning. With Florida winning 4-3, junior righty Frank Rubio came in for relief and recorded two big strikeouts before being pulled in favor of Kirby Snead.

Once Snead entered, Alabama pinch hitter Connor Short signaled to the knot the score up at four. That was all Coach O'Sullivan needed to see, as he pulled Snead for freshman Michael Byrne. The righty would not see much game time, as a throwing error from Jonathan India loaded the bases and led to Byrne's exit after just one hitter.

Nick Horvath was the next Gator reliever to take over as he came in with the bases now loaded. He wasn't phased though, as the lefty induced a fly out to end Alabama's threat.

Florida would score the go-ahead run in the eighth, and the late inning combination of Horvath and Shaun Anderson would retire Alabama's next six batters in order. It would be Horvath's second win of the year and Anderson's 11th save.

Offensively, the hero in this game was freshman Danny Reyes. Starting just his second game of the season, the Miami Springs product went 2-4 with a go-ahead RBI double in the eighth inning. This was his second double of the game as he was one of three Gators with multiple hits in the contest.

Florida's leading hitter was Mike Rivera, who went 3-4 with a double, a run scored, and a walk. Rounding out the multi-hit club, JJ Schwarz went 2-3 with an RBI, a run scored, and two walks.

The only other Gator to record a hit besides these three was Jonathan India, who was just 1-5 but drove in a game-high two RBI's.

Before moving on to Florida's next elimination game, here are my final tidbits on the 'Bama game:

  • Florida has now won three straight over Alabama dating back to the 2015 season.
  • JJ Schwarz showed his defensive prowess behind the plate, as he threw out his 17th runner of the year.
  • For the second straight game, Florida made two errors in a game (courtesy of Dalton Guthrie and Jonathan India).

With this victory, Florida was not at all out of the gauntlet. Their next opponent would be No. 3 Mississippi State. Though ranked third in the coaches' polls, the Bulldogs were the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

No. 3 Mississippi State (Elimination Game)
Having lost the season series in Gainesville to Mississippi State, the Gators handed the ball to sophomore right hander Alex Faedo (12-1, 3.49 ERA). This was a great chance at redemption for Faedo, as Mississippi State lit him up for nine earned runs on 10 hits the last time he pitched against them on April 9th.

It was a completely different story for Florida and Faedo this time. The game only went seven innings as the Gators mercy-ruled the Bulldogs 12-2. Even better, Faedo threw all seven innings and allowed just two earned runs on seven hits while striking out five, walking two, and hitting one batter. He would earn his SEC-leading 12th win of the year.

Florida's offense was in a different stratosphere this game as the offense banged out 14 hits and scored 10+ runs for the ninth time this season. Four Gators had multiple hits!

Leading all hitters was JJ Schwarz. Following up his two-hit performance from last night, the sophomore went 4-5 with a double, a triple, four RBI's, and a run scored. These next two Gators hitters accounted for more than half of Florida's run total.

Buddy Reed went 2-3 with just one RBI but three runs scored. Likewise, Deacon Liput went 2-3 and managed to cross the plate three times as well! Right behind Deac, fellow freshman Danny Reyes continued to impress as he hit his third double in two games and finished the game 2-4 with two RBI's.

The final freshman worth mentioning is Nelson Maldonado. Though he had just one hit, Nelly drew two walks and accounted for three runs while also driving in a runner.

After a solid revenge-win for the Orange and Blue, here are my final tidbits for the game:

  • Florida finally cleaned up their defense as the Gators made no errors in the game.
  • This is the second seven-inning game the Gators have played this year (May 21st at LSU).
  • Florida had not had more than 10 hits in a game since the series finale against Vanderbilt (43-17) on May 15th. Coincidentally, Faedo threw that game as well.

After knocking out the Regular Season SEC Champions, Florida had a well-deserve rematch looming with the LSU Tigers in the SEC Semifinals.

No. 7 LSU (SEC Semifinals)
In their fifth meeting in two weeks, Florida and LSU had an SEC Championship berth on the line. The Gators went with sophomore lefty Scott Moss (3-0, 1.61 ERA), who had not pitched since May 10th. Needless to say, he spun a gem!

Throwing six innings, Moss shut down the LSU lineup as he allowed no runs on three hits, struck out seven, and walked none. It was by far the biggest start of his young career, and Moss definitely did his job and arose to the occasion.

Moss was able to qualify for the win after Jonathan India laced an RBI double down the left field line to give the Gators a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth. From there, it was up to the bullpen.

Dane Dunning, who threw beautifully against the Tigers in the opening game of the tournament, did his job yet again in 1.2 innings of work. He allowed just two hits and struck out three before Kirby Snead relieved him with two outs and a runner on first in the eighth inning.

Snead would get the job done. On just one pitch he got Jake Fraley to pop up to end the inning. In the ninth, who else but Shaun Anderson took the mound. His assignment was by no means the easiest, as he would be facing the heart of the LSU batting order.

The first one to step in the box was Kramer Robertson, who singled off of Anderson to start the frame. LSU tried to bunt him over with clean-up man Bryce Jordan, but that wouldn't be necessary as Robertson advanced on a spiked curveball from Anderson.

Down 2-0 in the count with the tying run on base, Shaun would fight back as he struck out Jordan and induced an easy groundout from pinch hitter Brody Wofford. With Robertson now 90 feet away from tying this game, it was all up to Beau Jordan.

The LSU left fielder cranked a pitch to right field, but recently inserted defensive sub Nick Horvath tracked the ball down and gloved it for the final out of the game. The rally possum was dead (I'll explain this later)! The Gators were on their way to their third consecutive SEC Championship!

Anderson pumped his fist after nailing down his 12th save, and Scott Moss was awarded his third career victory after an incredible performance.

Offensively, just know that Jonathan India led the way. His sixth-inning double was his second hit of the game and one of the biggest of his collegiate career.

Before steamrolling into the SEC Championship against No. 2 Texas A&M, let me give my final tidbits on what might be Florida's defining win of this year's tournament:

  • To fill y'all in, LSU has this "rally possum" fad that has blown up in Baton Rouge due to the fact that an opossum ran onto the field when the Tigers played Arkansas (26-29). After the opossum was removed, LSU overcame a 9-1 deficit to the Razorbacks and ripped off a 10-game winning streak before falling to Florida in the series finale at the Box. Florida countered the "rally possum" with a stuffed owl, and it blew up in the Gators' face when LSU beat them in their first meeting of the tournament.
  • Florida committed one error in the game, but it did not come back to haunt them against the Tigers this time.
  • LSU's trio of pitchers struck out less Gators than Alex Lange did by himself, as they only recorded three strikeouts in the contest.
  • Nelson Maldonado continued to show off his speed as he swiped his sixth bag of the season in this game.

With LSU gone and out of sight for at least a little while, Florida now turned their attention to winning the eighth SEC Tournament Championship in school history. Standing in their way were the Texas A&M Aggies, whom the Gators had swept in Gainesville earlier this season.

No. 2 Texas A&M (SEC Championship)
The SEC Championship presented much promise to Florida fans as the Gators were throwing ace pitcher Logan Shore (10-0, 2.41 ERA). What we did not expect was a one-inning, 15-pitch outing. 

That's right, folks. Shore was done after allowing one earned run on two hits and facing four batters. I do see Sully's reasoning in all this. Shore had been battling a stomach bug and Sully just wanted to get him some game action, though I figured it'd be at least three or four innings before Shore got the hook.

Nevertheless, Frank Rubio made his second appearance of the SEC Tournament and did a decent job as he allowed two earned runs on six hits in three innings of relief. After Frank, the wheels fell off.

Freshman Michael Byrne entered in the fifth inning, and was doing well until the seventh inning. Up until that point, Byrne had retired seven straight batters. It should have been eight, but Deacon Liput was playing the shift on Aggie first baseman Hunter Melton. This meant that he was out of his normal position and Melton's ground ball which should have been a routine out was instead a seeing-eye single.

It was not Liput's fault at all, just a really unfortunate set of circumstances. Still in no real trouble and with a 5-3 lead, Byrne induced a ground ball to third baseman Jonathan India that looked like an inning ending double play. Shockingly, India misplayed it and everybody was safe.

The next batter, J.B. Moss, hit a game-tying double the line. After him, two-hole man Nick Banks parked his second home run of the game to give the Aggies the lead for good.

Now trailing 7-5, Florida went down 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth and gave up a five-spot in the eighth inning. Kirby Snead, Eddie Demurias, and Nick Horvath were all victimized in Texas A&M's game-clinching rally.

With the score now laughably at 12-5, Florida again mounted no threat whatsoever. The Gators went down 1-2-3 in the ninth inning and the Aggies clinched the first SEC Championship in school history. It was a tough one to lose, especially considering the Gators had mopped Texas A&M in Gainesville.

Though Florida's offense sputtered late in the game, there were still some standouts worth mentioning. They both so happen to be freshmen as well. The first freshman I want to laud is Danny Reyes. Yet again, he killed it out of the seven-hole as he went 2-4 with an RBI and a run scored. 

Hitting a spot down from Reyes in the nine-hole, Nelson Maldonado also ended his first SEC Tournament on a good note as he went 2-3 with an RBI, a run scored, and a walk.

Of course, in a game like the SEC Championship, I can't just give praises to my Gators. TAMU's first two hitters, J.B. Moss and Nick Banks, single-handedly beat Florida today. Moss was 3-5 with two doubles, five RBI's, and three runs scored while Banks was 3-5 with two homers, three RBI's, and two runs scored. This Aggie lineup had quite the pop, and Florida experienced its full wrath today.

Before giving my final wrap up of another memorable SEC Tournament, here are my final tidbits from the SEC Championship:

  • This was Florida and Texas A&M's first meeting in the tournament since 2013 (TAMU won 6-3).
  • The Aggies banged out 15 hits against Florida's pitching staff!
  • Five of Florida's nine starters went hitless in the contest.
  • Following the trend, Florida committed two errors in a game for the THIRD time this week! Meanwhile, TAMU committed FOUR errors and still won the game convincingly.

Final Takeaway:
The SEC is hands down the best conference in college baseball. Look no other than at the championship game. Texas A&M and Florida (who are the No. 2 and No 1. teams in the country, respectively) were seeded third and fourth, respectively. That alone should attest to this conference's depth and competitiveness.

I'm not here to talk about the SEC, though. I'm here to address how this affects the Gators heading into postseason play.

Without junior first baseman Peter Alonso, this team still managed to make it to the conference title game and score 26 runs on 40 hits. It's obvious though that his bat is sorely missed in the lineup. Apart from the 12-run outburst against Mississippi State, Florida scored five runs or less in the other four tournament games.

However, there is a huge offensive bright spot from this week: Danny Reyes. 

Starting four of the five tournament games, Reyes went 6-16 (.375) with three doubles, four RBI's, and a run scored. It's no lie that the freshman proved himself to Sully, and he may be a huge factor for the Gators going forward into regionals and beyond.

Defensively, I was not happy with the Gators' fielding throughout the week. They made a total of seven errors in five games. Jonathan India made three of them and Dalton Guthrie accounted for two. 

Now these guys are superb fielders and I expect them to pick it up in the NCAA Tournament, but in the back of my mind I am hoping India's lack of playoff experience doesn't come back to bite him or the Gators. That same principle goes for Deacon, Nelly, and even Danny if he is out there.

Looking at the pitching staff, all of the starters were fantastic. Puk got hit with bad luck once again, Singer did well for the position he was thrown in, Faedo was fantastic, Moss was nearly impeccable, and Shore avoided getting hurt and is healthy for next weekend.

Now surveying the bullpen, I'd say the two most reliable arms are Dane Dunning and Shaun Anderson. Dunning ate up innings this weekend as he threw six total innings against LSU, struck out seven, walked none, allowed three hits, and gave up just one earned run.

Anderson was just as dominant. Though LSU tied the game off of him in the first meeting, Anderson is not at all to blame as he entered with a runner on third base. Shaun threw 3.2 innings in Hoover, picked up two saves, struck out three, walked none, allowed two hits, and gave up just one earned run.

The reliever I'd say may need a confidence boost after this week is Kirby Snead. Practically unhittable throughout the regular season, Snead was touched for at least one run or more in three of his four appearances. LSU scored the go-ahead run off of him, Alabama tied the game off of him, and Texas A&M roughed him up as the SEC Championship got out of hand.

I still trust Kirby with the game on the line, I just hope that is confidence gets back up to par after a rough week like this.

To tie it all together, it was a great week of SEC play. I extend my congratulations to Texas A&M for winning their first SEC Championship. I remember writing around the time of the sweep that Florida had to watch out for the Aggies in this tournament, and lo and behold I ended up being right!

The 64-team field for the NCAA Tournament will be announced at noon on Memorial's Day. From what I have seen on telecasts, Florida is projected to be the No. 4 national seed. I am fine with that. I just want to see this team make it to Omaha.

Regardless of where they are seeded and who they will play, the Gators will open up regional play at the Mac next weekend from Friday, June 3rd, to Monday, June 6th. The run to Omaha begins now!

*All stats accredited to

Saturday, May 28, 2016

UF Softball: #1 Florida's Three-Peat Dreams End in Super Regionals

With one swing of the bat, it was all over. A trip to the Women's College World Series, a fourth consecutive super regional victory, and a chance for a three-peat were all gone after the No. 16 Georgia Bulldogs (45-18) swept the No. 1 overall seeded Florida Gators (56-7) in the Gainesville Super Regional.

Shock and awe. Those are the two words that come to mind after these last couple of days. Florida is just the second number one overall seed EVER to not make it to the WCWS. Potentially just as historic, every single one of their seven losses this season was to an SEC opponent (two to Auburn, two to Alabama, one to Texas A&M, and two to Georgia).

Florida's offense vanished in super regionals. After hitting nearly .400 as a team in regional play, the Gators took a huge step backwards as they hit .167 and mustered just eight total hits against Georgia senior Chelsea Wilkins.

Wilkins only struck out three between the two games, but she didn't need to rack up double digit K's to be effective. She allowed two runs the whole series, both of which came in Game 2 after a complete game shutout in the opener.

When Florida did score a pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning, neither of them came from an RBI hit. Taylore Fuller was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Amanda Lorenz plated a runner when she grounded out to first base.

Besides the incredible pitching performance from Wilkins, Georgia had some heroes on offense as well.

In Game 1, junior utility player Maeve McGuire went 3-3 and drove in two runs off of Florida starter Delanie Gourley as the Bulldogs handed the Gators just their third loss of the season at Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium.

In Game 2, Florida seemed to be in prime position to win some momentum back and force a Game 3 with a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning.

Trying to finish out the game, Gator ace Aleshia Ocasio induced a flyout before allowing an infield single to Maeve McGuire. It's worth noting that McGuire's single was a bang-bang play that could have gone either way.

After a line out to Alex Voss at shortstop, Georgia's remaining hope rested in senior pinch hitter Kaylee Puailoa. The lefty quickly fell in an 0-2 hole, and Ocasio was zoning in on the kill. The sophomore reared back and threw a rising pitch over the heart of the plate.

Puailoa crushed it to dead center field, and a crowd of over 2,000 waited in suspense to see what would unfold. Would it be Game 3 or a program-defining win for the Bulldogs?

Gator center fielder Kirsti Merritt gave chase to the fly ball, but ran out of the real estate as she banged into the wall. After hitting the wall, Merritt looked up and saw the ball soar over the fence. Puailoa and Georgia had just done the impossible. They just upset the best team in the country.

Puailoa raised her fist in the air as she rounded first base and was mobbed by her teammates when she crossed the plate. Head coach Tim Walton and his Gators had to watch in in shear disappointment as one of their biggest rivals celebrated on their field.

A senior class that had been an integral part of two straight National Championships saw their collegiate careers end in the most heartbreaking fashion. Of Florida's five seniors, only Kirsti Merritt and Aubree Munro recorded a hit in the super regional. 

In fact, Merritt and Munro were responsible for half of the Gator hits against Wilkins as they both notched one hit in each game. As a unit, the seniors hit .200 (4-20) against Georgia.

Final Takeaway:
Florida's shot at immortality and history are just a bunch of "what-ifs" now. This is the fourth time in school history (2008, 2009, & 2013) that Florida has lost less than 10 games and concluded their season without a National Championship.

In my season recap article I will go through and list the season highlights, individual award winners and the final career statistics of the seniors. Until then, stay tuned for my upcoming articles on the Gator baseball team as they try to win the first National Championship in program history.

One final note, I tip my hat off to the Georgia Bulldogs. They played their hearts out and proved many doubters (including myself) wrong. Though they are one of Florida's fiercest rivals, I do wish them the best of luck in what will be their third WCWS appearance in school history. The better team won this series, it's just that plain and simple.

*All stats accredited to

Monday, May 23, 2016

UF Softball: #1 Gators Sweep Regional

The No. 1 Florida Gators (56-5) powered their way into the ninth super regional in school history after shutting out all three of their opponents in regional play.

Florida opened up postseason play with an 11-0 victory over Alabama State (28-27). From there, the Gators would take on UCF (38-22) in the regional semifinal as well as the final. The Knights presented no threat, as Florida beat them 5-0 in the semifinal and 8-0 in the final.

Every game but the regional semifinal ended in five innings due to the mercy rule. As a team, Florida hit .383 in regional play and scored 24 runs. Florida had two home runs over the weekend which both came against UCF.

Freshman left fielder Amanda Lorenz launched a solo homer for her eighth long ball of the season in the regional semifinal and sophomore outfielder Nicole DeWitt blasted a three-run shot for her seventh bomb of the year in the regional final.

The Gators swiped four bases between the three games. Yet again, they all were against UCF. Junior outfielder Justine McLean stole her 14th bag of the season, senior third baseman Taylore Fuller swiped two bases to boost her total to five, and senior second baseman Kelsey Stewart maintained her team-lead of 15 stolen bags with a base swipe in the regional final.

Here now are Florida's offensive leaders from the Gainesville Regional:

  • Hits: Amanda Lorenz (4)
  • Triples: Nicole DeWitt (1)
  • Home Runs: Amanda Lorenz/Nicole DeWitt (1)
  • RBI's: Nicole DeWitt (6)
  • Runs Scored: Nicole DeWitt (5)
  • Batting Average*: Taylore Fuller (.600, 3-5 in regionals)
  • Steals: Taylore Fuller (2)
  • Strikeouts: Kelsey Stewart/Kirsti Merritt/Aubree Munro/Taylor Fuller/Amanda Lorenz (1)
  • Hit By Pitch: Kelsey Stewart/Kirsti Merritt/Aubree Munro/Kayli Kvistad (1)
  • At-Bats: Kelsey Stewart (10)
*Must have played in all three games

Looking at Florida's pitching, they did a spectacular job all weekend. Besides not allowing a run, the staff threw two one-hitters and allowed just five hits in regional play. The trio of Aleshia Ocasio (22-1, 0.65 ERA), Kelly Barnhill (15-1, 1.36 ERA), and Delanie Gourley (19-3, 0.70 ERA) all combined for 30 strikeouts and just three walks!

Against Alabama State in the regional opener, it was a tag team effort between Ocasio and Barnhill. Ocasio fanned seven batters over four innings and the freshman Barnhill closed it out by striking out the side after allowing a leadoff walk. The Hornets managed just one hit off of Ocasio.

In the regional semifinal against UCF, Delanie Gourley took the mound and spun an absolute gem! Allowing only one hit in Florida's only seven inning game of the regional, the junior struck out 13 Knights while walking just two and of course allowing no runs! This was the sixth time this season that Delanie registered double-digits K's in a game and her third time reaching 13 strikeouts.

In the regional final against UCF, Coach Tim Walton went back to his ace and threw Ocasio. Once again, the sophomore got the job done. Going a full five innings, Ocasio scattered three hits, struck out seven, and walked none as Florida punched their ticket back to super regionals.

Here now are Florida's pitching leaders from the Gainesville Regional:

  • Wins: Aleshia Ocasio (2)
  • Strikeouts: Delanie Gourley (13)
  • Walks: Delanie Gourley (2)
  • Hits allowed: Aleshia Ocasio (4)

As another indicator of how dominant Florida's pitching staff was, it's worth noting that not one opposing runner reached third base in any of the three games. Wow!

Final Takeaway:
The No. 1 seeded Florida Gators now have a date with one of their oldest rivals in the No. 15 seeded Georgia Bulldogs (43-18). With Florida having not faced Georgia in either the 2016 regular season or the SEC Tournament, this is quite a time for these two adversaries to meet.

Obviously the matchup favors the Gators, as they are the host team and the Bulldogs have not beaten them since the 2014 SEC Tournament. I personally think Florida will win this super regional in two games simply due to the fact that they are the best team in the country and have a plethora of players with significant postseason experience. In the process, the Gators will come one step closer to reaching softball immortality as they seek a three-peat.

Game 1 of the Gainesville Super Regional is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 26th. It can be seen on ESPN2 and heard on WGGG-AM & WMOP-AM/FM.

*All stats accredited to

Sunday, May 22, 2016

UF Baseball: #1 Florida vs #8 LSU Series Recap

The LSU road trip served as a BRUTAL ending to what has been a historic regular season for the No. 1 Florida Gators (44-11, 19-10 SEC).

Narrowly avoiding getting swept for the first time this year, Florida dropped the first two games of the series before salvaging the regular season finale today. With their third series loss of the year, Florida's shot at an SEC East title vanished as No. 10 South Carolina (42-13, 20-9 SEC) swept Alabama (31-24, 15-15 SEC) in Tuscaloosa.

Game 1
Nothing came easy for Florida this weekend. Starting with Game 1 on Thursday, it was supposed to a battle of the aces as Florida's Logan Shore (10-0, 2.33 ERA) faced LSU's Alex Lange (7-3, 3.63 ERA). What we got instead was rain, and a lot of it.

Shore was only able to throw 35 pitches in 2.1 innings before a heavy thunderstorm suspended play for the night. When this game did resume at noon on Saturday, Shore and Lange were obviously not back on the mound. In a game of bullpen's, Florida's faltered as LSU tattooed freshman Brady Singer for six runs on six hits.

With a commanding lead, LSU's reliever combo of Riley Smith and Parker Bugg kept the Florida lineup at bay. Smith would allow all three of Florida's runs in his three innings of work while Bugg retired all nine batters he faced in his three innings.

The only offensive standouts for the Gators were JJ Schwarz and Nelson Maldonado. Both went 2-4 and JJ scored two of Florida's runs. It's also worth mentioning that Dalton Guthrie strung together some good at-bats, as he went 1-2 with a pair of walks.

Game 2
Florida again was hit with starting pitcher trouble with big lefty A.J. Puk (2-3, 2.93 ERA). Just two innings into the game, Puk somehow got sick and could not continue. So once again, it became a bullpen game and once again the bullpen had a rough day.

Dane Dunning, who has been incredible all year, entered in Puk's place and got hit around. He allowed three runs on seven hits but was let off the hook due to a resilient effort from the Gator lineup.

After overcoming a three-run deficit late in the game, Florida headed into the bottom of the eighth inning tied at four a piece with LSU. It is here where the tide shifted. Nick Horvath, who had not pitched in over a month, entered the game and allowed two runners to reach base. The lead runner was not Horvath's fault, he reached on an error. The second guy, however, singled.

Seeing trouble brewing, Sully pulled Horvath and put in reliable closer Shaun Anderson. To simply put it, LSU got a timely hit. With two outs, Kramer Robertson singled in the go-ahead run. It was his ONLY hit of the night.

Horvath would be tagged with his first collegiate loss, but it's hard to find him at fault when he's been playing more of the field nowadays as opposed to solely pitching. What's even more upsetting than LSU figuring out the bullpen has to be that this is the FIFTH STRAIGHT AJ Puk start that has ended in a Gator loss.

It's incredible for me to think that the potential No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft has been a part of seven of Florida's 11 losses! This is also the sixth time that Puk has failed to go more than five innings in an outing.

Looking to the offensive side, there were many positive takeaways from this game.

Dalton Guthrie continued to see the ball well as he went 3-5 out of the leadoff spot. Behind him, Jonathan India went 2-5 with a run scored and his 10th stolen base of the season.

Near the middle of the lineup, Nelson Maldonado continued to plate runners as he drove in a pair and swiped his fifth bag of the season. Behind Nelly, Mike Rivera continued to terrorize LSU with the long ball as he launched his ninth home run of the season. It would be Rivera's only hit of the series.

In retrospect, it was neither the pitching or lack of hitting that cost Florida this one. It was the defense. The Gators had probably their worst defensive game of the season as the nation's best fielding team committed an uncharacteristic three errors!

Jonathan India was responsible for two of them while Jeremy Vasquez made one. Committing errors against teams like LSU, especially on the road, makes a difficult task of winning nearly impossible.

Game 3
With the threat of a sweep looming, the Gators called on Alex Faedo (11-1, 3.58 ERA) to end the two-game skid.

The sophomore delivered. Notching his SEC-leading 11th victory, Faedo tossed 5.1 innings and allowed two earned runs on seven hits. He struck out three, walked two, and hit a batter.

After Faedo's departure, Shaun Anderson entered and earned a five-out save. Don't be mistaken, you read that correctly. Due to NCAA rules regarding the makeup game played at noon, Game 3 was limited to seven innings.

This could not have been more to the Gators' advantage as Faedo always chews up innings and Anderson had thrown just 10 pitches in the prior game.

Offensively, some familiar names dominated the stat ledger.

Dalton Guthrie went 1-3 with a run scored as he concluded the weekend with a hit in every game and a .500 average (5-10). Still swinging a hot bat, Jonathan India had a monster day as he went 1-3 with a double, three RBI's, a run scored, and his 11th stolen base of the season.

JJ Schwarz returned to his Game 1 form as he went 1-3 with a double, drove in a pair of runs, and scored once. Batting a couple spots below Schwarz and right after one another, freshmen Nelson Maldonado and Deacon Liput both ended the regular season on offensive high notes.

Like Guthrie, Nelly notched a hit in every game as he went 1-3 in the series finale. This time around, he had no RBI's. Deacon Liput, however, did. Snapping his 0-6 mark against LSU, Liput went 2-3 with an RBI double.

Final Takeaway:
It's tough to see the Florida Gators squander their chance at an SEC East title in the last week of the regular season, but honestly it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of it all.

Florida finished as the fourth overall best team in the SEC, which still gives them a first round bye in the SEC Tournament. Frankly, I won't mind it at all if the Gators don't defend their SEC crown. Their ultimate goal is getting to Omaha and winning once they get there.

I tip my hat off to the LSU Tigers (39-17, 19-11 SEC), it takes one heck of a team to beat a squad with as much depth and talent as the Gators. It also helped that two of their three starters didn't go deep into their games due to either weather or sickness.

Regardless, this series loss was a good thing for Florida. It should help the team refocus as postseason play starts to swing into action. Enough of my analysis though, let's get into the schedule.

The SEC Tournament starts Tuesday and Florida is scheduled to play Wednesday at 9 p.m. Their opponent will be either LSU or Tennessee (29-27, 9-21 SEC). Needless to say, I would love for the Gators to get another shot at the Tigers with Logan Shore getting a chance to actually work past the third inning.

Florida is also at an advantage because LSU might exhaust their ace pitcher Alex Lange in Tuesday's game against the Vols. The Tiger rotation does have some depth to it though, so head coach Paul Mainieri may not have to necessarily use his ace.

Florida should keep one final thing in mind as the team rests on Sunday and prepares to head out to Hoover, Alabama, on Monday. 44-11 means nothing now. Their record might as well be 0-0.

Despite what happens in the SEC Tournament, the Gators need to be firing on all cylinders entering June. If this team can catch fire and all three dimensions of pitching, hitting, and fielding are working in harmony, then this team will win a National Championship.

*All stats accredited to

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

2016 Women's College World Series Predictions

Last year, I gave my predictions on who would win the 2015 Women's College World Series. As it turned out, I ended up correctly predicting all eight teams who made it to Oklahoma City! As a bonus, I also correctly chose the National Champion: my Florida Gators.

With last year boding very well for me, I figured I'd give it another go and see if I can duplicate my success. So without further adieu, here are my predictions for the 2016 NCAA Softball Tournament!


Gainesville Regional
Florida Atlantic (50-7)
UCF (36-20)
#1 Florida (53-5)
Alabama State (27-24)

Winner: #1 Florida over Florida Atlantic in regional final

Why: The Gators won the SEC regular season title while the Owls won both the Conference-USA regular season and tournament titles. Though FAU has had a spectacular season, they will be no match against arguably one of the best Gator softball teams in school history.

Athens Regional
Maine (28-19)
Northwestern (26-26)
Oklahoma State (29-24)
#15 Georgia (40-17)

Winner: #15 Georgia over Oklahoma State in regional final

Why: The Bulldogs and Cowgirls were both middle of the pack teams in their respective conferences. However, Georgia should be motivated after losing in the first round of the SEC Tournament and with a potential super regional matchup against the rival Florida Gators on the horizon.

Lexington Regional
Illinois (35-21)
Utah (32-19)
#9 Kentucky (43-12)
Butler (24-27)

Winner: #9 Kentucky over Illinois in regional final

Why: The Wildcats finished as the second-best team in the SEC regular season standings while Illinois finished seventh in the Big 10 regular season standings. Both teams lost in the quarterfinals of their conference tournaments, though Kentucky was a No. 2 seed and Illinois was a No. 7 seed. 

Kentucky has lost just seven games at John Cropp Stadium, and the home advantage should help them cruise in their regional.

Tallahassee Regional
Florida A&M (27-28)
South Carolina (36-21)
South Florida (44-14)
#8 Florida State (48-8)

Winner: #8 Florida State over South Florida in regional final

Why: The Bulls have had an incredible season thus far, but the Seminoles are coming off of their third straight ACC Tournament title. Losing only nine games at JoAnne Graf Field, FSU will defeat USF in a highly contested regional final.

Eugene Regional
Baylor (43-12)
Long Beach State (32-20)
#5 Oregon (44-8)
Fordham (39-19)

Winner: #5 Oregon over Baylor in regional final

Why: Oregon is coming off their fourth straight Pac-12 regular season title while Baylor finished second overall in the Big 12 regular season standings. Appearing in the last two Women's College World Series, Oregon should have no problem taking care of business in their regional.

Los Angeles Regional
Cal State Bakersfield (16-32)
Cal State Fullerton (43-14)
Fresno State (41-10-1)
#12 UCLA (35-13-1)

Winner: Fresno State over #12 UCLA in regional final

Why: My first upset of the NCAA Tournament, Fresno State lost just one conference game as the Bulldogs won the Mountain West regular season title. UCLA, meanwhile finished second behind Oregon in the Pac-12 regular season standings.

I think UCLA's home field advantage will not intimidate Fresno State, and the Bulldogs will finally defeat the Bruins in the regional final to advance to a super regional.

Knoxville Regional
Arizona (36-19)
Ohio State (33-18-1)
#13 Tennessee (41-14)
Marist (45-11)

Winner: #13 Tennessee over Arizona in regional final

Why: Tennessee finished third in the SEC regular season standings and lost in the semifinals of the conference tournament. On the other side, Arizona finished smack dab in the middle of the Pac-12 regular season title race with a fifth place finish in the standings.

Playing in three of the last four Women's College World Series, Tennessee's postseason experience will show as the Lady Vols continue their quest for the school's ever first softball National Championship.

Auburn Regional
Jacksonville State (41-15)
Oregon State (30-18)
South Carolina Upstate (42-13)
#4 Auburn (49-9)

Winner: #4 Auburn over Oregon State in regional final

Why: Auburn won their second consecutive SEC Tournament Championship last Saturday. Though the other three team's in the Tigers' region have respectable records, Auburn's region as a whole does not seem too difficult. They will steamroll their way into a super regional.

Norman Regional
Mississippi (39-20)
Tulsa (35-19)
#3 Oklahoma (47-7)
Wichita State (35-19)

Winner: #3 Oklahoma over Mississippi in regional final

Why: Oklahoma has lost two games at home all year and won the Big 12 regular season title. Ole Miss finished in the bottom half of the SEC regular season standings. The Sooners will have no problem advancing out of this region.

Lafayette Regional
Boston University (28-22)
Texas (37-14)
Texas A&M (37-18)
#14 Louisiana-Lafayette (43-17)

Winner: #14 Louisiana-Lafayette over Texas A&M in regional final

Why: The Ragin' Cajuns have appeared in four straight super regionals and reached the Women's College World Series in 2014. I like their chances to make it five in a row as the Aggies have not made it to a super regional since 2008.

Seattle Regional
Minnesota (41-12)
North Dakota State (38-13)
#11 Washington (36-13)
Weber State (37-17)

Winner: Minnesota over #11 Washington in regional final

Why: My second upset in regional play, Minnesota won the Big 10 Tournament while finishing second in the regular season standings. Washington finished third in the Pac-12 standings but, in my opinion, will not be able to overcome a Gopher team looking to reach their first WCWS since 1978.

Tuscaloosa Regional
California (31-22)
Samford (40-18)
Texas State (39-20)
#6 Alabama (46-12)

Winner: #6 Alabama over California in regional final

Why: Alabama has played in a super regional every year since 2005 with eight WCWS appearances sprinkled in the mix. California finished in the bottom four of the the Pac-12 standings. This is a no-brainer, Alabama will advance easily.

Harrisonburg Regional
#7 James Madison (46-4)
Longwood (38-18)
North Carolina (31-23)
Princeton (23-26)

Winner: #7 James Madison over North Carolina in regional final

Why: James Madison hosted a regional last year and did not even make it to the regional final. Winning both the Colonial regular season and tournament titles, the Dukes will be determined to win in front of their home fans and advance to the first super regional in school history.

On the other side, the Tarheels finished in the middle of the ACC standings while losing in the tournament semifinals. Even though UNC is seeking their first super regionals appearance in school history, I don't see them beating a motivated James Madison in a regional final.

Baton Rouge Regional
Arizona State (30-25)
LIU Brooklyn (30-25)
McNeese State (42-12)
#10 LSU (45-15)

Winner: #10 LSU over McNeese State in regional final

Why: LSU finished in the middle of the SEC standings while McNeese State won the Southland regular season title. Though the Tigers and Cowgirls may be evenly matched opponents for the most part, LSU will win mainly because of home field advantage.

Columbia Regional
Louisville (35-15)
Nebraska (33-19)
#15 Missouri (39-14)
BYU (35-19)

Winner: Nebraska over #15 Missouri in regional final

Why: The fact that Missouri is a national seed shocks me. They lost in the first round of the SEC Tournament and barely finished above LSU in the regular season standings. Of all my upsets, this one is my riskiest gamble. I'm picking the Nebraska Cornhuskers to take this one.

Louisville is tempting, but I believe in the Cornhuskers. They might have finished fifth in the Big 10 standings and lost in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, but I think they will muster some magic and defeat Missouri as an old Big 12 rivalry renews itself.

Ann Arbor Regional
Miami of Ohio (34-21)
Notre Dame (41-11)
Valparaiso (18-32)
#2 Michigan (46-5)

Winner: #2 Michigan over Notre Dame in regional final

Why: Michigan won the Big 10 regular season title and lost just one game at home the whole season. Although Notre Dame finished third in the ACC regular season standings and lost in the tournament championship, the Fighting Irish will not prevail past the Wolverines and their home field advantage.

Super Regionals
Now that I have predicted the regional winners, it is now on to the super regionals! Keep in mind that a team needs to win two out of three games to advance to the Women's College World Series!

Gainesville Super Regional
#1 Florida vs #15 Georgia

Winner: #1 Florida

Why: This will be the first meeting between Florida and Georgia all season. In the softball version of the "World's Greatest Cocktail Party", the Gators will easily beat the Bulldogs to advance to Oklahoma City.

Tallahassee Super Regional
#8 Florida State vs #9 Kentucky

Winner: #8 Florida State

Why: It's hard to pick FSU of all teams over an SEC squad, but the 'Noles are mighty good this year. This super regional might go three, but the Seminoles will punch their ticket back to the WCWS.

Eugene Super Regional
#5 Oregon vs Fresno State

Winner: #5 Oregon

Why: Fresno State may be good enough to get out of regional play, but they will have a rude awakening when they play the Ducks. Oregon will wipe the floor with the Bulldogs and reach their third consecutive WCWS.

Auburn Super Regional
#4 Auburn vs #13 Tennessee

Winner: #4 Auburn

Why: Despite losing both games they played against the Lady Vols in Knoxville, the Tigers will be victorious this time around mainly because of the home field advantage. This super regional will go three games, but Auburn will return to the WCWS.

Norman Super Regional
#3 Oklahoma vs #14 UL-Lafayette

Winner: #3 Oklahoma

Why: This is a very intriguing matchup, but I have to go with the Sooners. I could see this super regional potentially going three games, but I think Oklahoma takes care of business with a sweep.

Tuscaloosa Super Regional
#6 Alabama vs Minnesota

Winner: #6 Alabama

Why: Minnesota's magical tournament run ends here. Alabama will beat them in two games and advance to their third straight WCWS.

Harrisonburg Super Regional
#7 James Madison vs #10 LSU

Winner: #7 James Madison

Why: This is another super regional that catches my eye. Very uncharacteristic of me yet again, I'm picking against the SEC team. In three games, James Madison will advance to their first WCWS in school history!

Ann Arbor Super Regional
#2 Michigan vs Nebraska

Winner: #2 Michigan

Why: Like my two other unseeded regional winners, Nebraska's road will end in Ann Arbor. Though the Cornhuskers won two games against the Wolverines in Lincoln, it will be different this time around. I think the super regional will go three games, but Michigan will prevail and reach their second straight WCWS.

If my picks were to come to fruition, let's see how the Women's College World Series would turn out!

Women's College World Series First Round
#1 Florida vs #8 Florida State

Winner: #1 Florida

Why: In the third meeting between these Sunshine State rivals this season, the Gators will defeat the Seminoles yet again in a classic game. It will be a competitive contest, but Florida has won five straight games over Florida State for a reason.

#4 Auburn vs #5 Oregon

Winner: #4 Auburn

Why: Auburn made it to the semifinals last season while Oregon played in the semis two years ago. In a battle between two talented teams, the Tigers will emerge victorious as a rematch with Florida looms in the second round.

#3 Oklahoma vs #6 Alabama

Winner: #6 Alabama

Why: Alabama and Oklahoma have hooked up in the last two postseasons with Alabama winning on both occasions. This time around, I think history will continue to repeat itself. If 'Bama can take two games from the Gators in Gainesville, then they should have no problem defeating a Sooner team that has struggled to beat them.

#2 Michigan vs #7 James Madison

Winner: #2 Michigan

Why: Postseason experience will be the difference maker here. Michigan will be making their 13th WCWS appearance while James Madison will be making their first. It will be a close game, but Michigan will get the 'W'.

Elimination Games
#5 Oregon vs #8 Florida State

Winner: #5 Oregon

Why: Oregon is not about to let themselves go two and out for the second year in the row. They will defeat the Seminoles and keep their WCWS dreams alive.

#3 Oklahoma vs #7 James Madison

Winner: #3 Oklahoma

Why: Oklahoma will not let their season end against a team who has never won a WCWS game. The Sooners will take care of James Madison and eliminate the Dukes.

End Result: #7 James Madison & #8 Florida State ELIMINATED

Second Round
#1 Florida vs #4 Auburn

Winner: #1 Florida

Why: Florida is 4-2 against Auburn on the season. Also keep in mind that the Gators save their best softball for the WCWS. Though Auburn will give the Orange and Blue a run for their money, Florida will avenge their SEC Tournament loss to the Tigers and advance to the semifinals.

#2 Michigan vs #6 Alabama

Winner: #2 Michigan

Why: Essentially getting an easy draw with James Madison in the first round, Michigan's first real challenge will take shape in Alabama. Having played the Tide in the first round of last year's WCWS, the Wolverines will duplicate last postseason's success and once again down Alabama.

Second Round Elimination Games
#5 Oregon vs #6 Alabama

Winner: #6 Alabama

Why: Alabama and Oregon will once again meet with their seasons on the line. Just like last year's WCWS, Alabama will win and reach their second semifinals in three years.

#3 Oklahoma vs #4 Auburn

Winner: #4 Auburn

Why: As Oklahoma struggles against Alabama, the same will prove true for Auburn. The Tigers will eliminate the Sooners and reach the semifinals for the second straight year.

End Result: #3 Oklahoma & #5 Oregon ELIMINATED

WCWS Semifinals
#1 Florida vs #6 Alabama

Winner: #1 Florida

Why: Although Alabama took two of three from Florida during the regular season, the Tide will again have to win two over the Gators to advance to the finals. They may take the first game, but they will not defeat Florida in a doubleheader. Florida will eliminate the Tide and advance to their third consecutive WCWS Finals.

#2 Michigan vs #4 Auburn

Winner: #4 Auburn

Why: Winning two games against the second-best team in the country is a very daunting task, but if any team is up to the challenge it is Auburn. The Tigers will need all hands on deck to pull the upset, but I believe that they will beat Michigan and set up yet ANOTHER rematch against the Gators.

WCWS Finals
#1 Florida vs #4 Auburn

Winner: #1 Florida

Why: Like I incorrectly predicted last year, Florida and Auburn will meet one final time with the National Championship on the line. This series will go three games and (like I said last year) Florida will win the series 2-1. It will be exhilarating, it will be close, and it will ultimately be a three-peat for my Florida Gators!

National Champion:

Florida Gators!

It can be argued there is some bias in my prediction of Florida winning their third consecutive National Championship. In all honestly, that is not the case.

Even if I did not go to the University of Florida and was just a casual softball fan, I would still pick Florida. It's not too difficult of a decision. They have been incredible all year. The offense, defense, and pitching have all been spectacular and all five of their losses have been to strictly SEC opponents!

Florida is in the midst of a spectacular run for their softball program. We are all witnessing a dynasty in the making. Biased or not, I am happy to say that I attended UF during an era such as this.

So there's my predictions. Let's see what happens! Also, stay tuned for my 2016 College World Series predictions coming out in a couple of weeks!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

UF Baseball: #1 Florida Wins Series Over #7 Vandy

The No. 1 Florida Gators (43-9, 18-8 in SEC play) have won their second consecutive series over the No. 7 Vanderbilt Commodores (37-15, 15-12) with their 10-6 victory this afternoon.

Alex Faedo (10-1, 3.59 ERA) did not have his best stuff today, but had enough run support to earn his 10th win of the season. Vanderbilt must have watched a bunch of film on Faedo, considering that they tagged him for six runs on eight hits today. However, that did not stop the sophomore from throwing six innings, fanning nine Commodore hitters, and walking just one batter.

After 97 pitches, Faedo gave way to the bullpen with an 8-6 lead. Dane Dunning came in for the second straight game and this time the result was completely different. Working two perfect innings, Dunning struck out three of the six batters he faced.

After Dunning's bounce back performance, closer Shaun Anderson entered in the ninth to shut the door. After allowing a leadoff single, Anderson induced a double play ground ball before striking out Connor Kaiser to secure the series victory.

Offensively, the Gator lineup turned things around in a big way after being shut out yesterday. Plating 10 runs and banging out 13 base knocks as a team today, Florida's batting order featured four players with multiple hits!

The first three Gators in the lineup killed it today. Out of the leadoff spot, Dalton Guthrie had his best game of the series as he went 3-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Behind him in the two-hole, Jonathan India went 2-5 with an RBI and a run scored as well. Following India in the three-hole, JJ Schwarz put his hitless Game 2 behind him as he went 2-5 with an RBI and a pair of runs scored.

Moving down one spot to the five-hole, Deacon Liput had himself a game as he hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning. In addition to his third career long ball, Liput would finish the day 2-4 with three RBI's, two runs scored, a walk, and his 12th stolen base of the year.

Among some other notable offensive standouts with just one hit, Buddy Reed went 1-5 with a double while Nelson Maldonado also went 1-5 with an RBI, a run scored, and his third stolen base of the season. Ryan Larson also saw some substantial action today, as he started his first game since April 29th. He finished the contest 1-3 with an RBI and a run scored. He had one putout in the outfield.

Final Takeaway:
The No.1 Florida Gators took care of business in their final home series of the regular season and still hold a one game lead over No. 8 South Carolina (38-13, 17-9 in SEC play) in the SEC East standings. As a whole, the Orange and Blue lead the SEC by 0.5 games with both No. 2 Texas A&M (39-11, 18-9 in SEC play) and No. 4 Mississippi State (37-14-1, 18-9 in SEC play) right on their heels.

Before previewing the final weekend series of the regular season against No. 13 LSU (36-16, 17-10 in SEC play), here are my final tidbits for the series clincher against Vandy:

  • Florida finished the 2016 regular season with a 29-4 record at home.
  • Despite getting roughed up today, Alex Faedo has now won his last four starts! He is also just one strikeout away from 100 on the season!
  • Jason Delay was the only Vandy player with multiple hits in the game. He went 2-4 with a double and a run scored. Vandy's RBI leader was Bryan Reynolds, who went 1-4 with a three-run bomb in the top of the third inning.
  • Florida's trio of Faedo, Dunning, and Anderson struck out 12 Commodores while walking just one. Conversely, Vandy was almost on par with Florida as the Commodore pitching staff fanned nine Gators and walked just two.
  • One of Dalton Guthrie's hits should not have counted. In the bottom of the third, Guthrie hit a ball to the shortstop and was clearly out at first base. Yet somehow, the first base umpire missed the call and ruled Guthrie as safe! This sparked what would be a three-run rally for Florida.
  • Every player in the Gator starting lineup had a hit except Mike Rivera, who went 0-2 with a walk.
  • For anyone wondering about Peter Alonso, I found out yesterday that he will be out until regionals due to an injury in his left hand. I have him in my prayers for a speedy recovery!

Florida will end their season with a road trip down to hostile Alex Box Stadium as they take on the No. 13 LSU Tigers. It's a tough way to end the season, but I would expect nothing less from a high-caliber team like the Gators. This will also be the third weekend series for Florida that starts on a Thursday (as both the Arkansas and Georgia series followed this format).

The weekend rotation will be as it has been for most of the year, with Logan Shore (10-0, 2.29 ERA) throwing Thursday night, A.J. Puk (2-3, 2.88 ERA) throwing Friday night, and Alex Faedo throwing Saturday afternoon. 

LSU will most likely counter with Alex Lange (7-3, 3.76 ERA) on Thursday night, and either Jared Poche' (6-4, 4.00 ERA) or John Valek III (6-2, 4.03 ERA) for the Friday and Saturday games.

All three games can be seen on ESPN's family of networks and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Radio Network.

As for Vandy, their loss today has eliminated them from SEC East contention. They will conclude their regular season at home as they face the Morehead State Eagles (30-22) on Tuesday and the Auburn Tigers (22-30, 8-19 in SEC play) in the weekend series. Like Florida, Vandy's final home weekend series will start on Thursday night and end on Saturday afternoon.

*All stats accredited to

UF Baseball: #7 Vandy Shuts Out #1 Florida

The No. 1 Florida Gators (42-9, 17-8 in SEC play) were shutout for the first time this season after losing 5-0 to the No. 7 Vanderbilt Commodores (37-14, 15-11 in SEC play).

A.J. Puk (2-3, 2.88 ERA) pitched a great game, but yet again received no run support as he lost his third decision of the season. Throwing six innings, Puk allowed just one earned run, struck out 11, and walked two.

Puk's only blemish came early in the game, as Julian Infante tagged him for a towering solo home run in the top of the second inning. Despite the long ball, Puk was dealing today. This was his fourth outing with double-digit strikeouts. 

When Puk exited, the score was just 1-0 in favor of Vandy. Once the bullpen took over, the game got ugly.

Dane Dunning entered and allowed one earned run on three hits in 0.2 innings of work. He struck out just one. After Dunning departed, Kirby Snead came in and was roughed up for three runs on three hits. His only walk was an intentional pass to Vandy catcher Jason Delay.

Once Snead was pulled, Frank Rubio came in and recorded his only out via a strikeout. He also gave up a hit and hit a batter in his 0.1 innings on the mound. 

Ending the mayhem was freshman Michael Byrne. Lasting the longest of the three relievers, Byrne threw 1.1 hitless innings while striking out one and walking one.

On the other side of the diamond, Vandy's Kyle Wright (7-3, 1.67 ERA) tossed an absolute gem. Going the distance and facing 29 batters (two over the minimum), Wright allowed no runs on just three hits, struck out 10, and walked two on a career-high 115 pitches. It was an incredible performance to watch, and I tip my hat to the Commodore's sophomore.

On that note, the Gator offense was dreadful. The only Gators to record a hit were Dalton Guthrie, Mike Rivera, and Jonathan India. All of their base knocks were singles. Florida never mounted an offensive threat the entire afternoon, as not one Gator reached third base.

Final Takeaway:
With both teams splitting the first two games, the No. 1 Florida Gators will look to win their sixth SEC series in their final regular season game at the Mac. Before previewing the rubber match, here are my final tidbits from a tough Game 2 loss:

  • The Gators have scored just four runs in Puk's last four starts.
  • This is just Florida's fourth loss at the Mac (28-4).
  • Florida seniors Jason Lombardozzi and Mike Fahrman were honored for their four years of contributions to the Gator baseball program today. Unfortunatley, neither of the two played in the game.
  • Three Vandy players had two hits in the game. They were Julian Infante (2-4 with a home run and two RBI's), Jason Delay (2-4 with two runs scored), and Connor Kaiser (2-4 with an RBI).
  • Kyle Wright has now won three starts in a row.
  • Three Gators accounted for multiple strikeouts against Wright. They were Deacon Liput, Buddy Reed, and Nick Horvath.
  • Speaking of Horvath, he was picked off in the bottom of the sixth inning.
  • This is the first time since April 24, 2015, that the Gators have been shutout at home.

Seeking to take the series and stay in the SEC East race, Florida will trot out sophomore righty Alex Faedo (9-1, 3.10 ERA) to get the job done. Faedo will be looking for his 10th victory and needs nine strikeouts to reach 100 on the season. I can't say for certain who Vandy will counter with, but I have a feeling it will be Patrick Raby (6-1, 2.09 ERA).

Game time for the rubber match is 1 p.m. It can be seen on the SEC Network and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

*All stats accredited to

Saturday, May 14, 2016

UF Softball: #1 Florida Falls in SEC Semis to #4 Auburn

The No. 1 seeded Florida Gators (53-4, 20-4 in SEC play) have been defeated in the SEC Semifinals for the second straight year after a 2-1 loss to the No. 4 seeded Auburn Tigers (48-9, 16-7 in SEC play).

Kelly Barnhill (15-1, 1.26 ERA) finally came back down to earth as Auburn's Carlee Wallace tagged her for a two-run homer in the top of the first inning. The freshman would go just two innings, surrendering five hits and striking out just one in that span.

For the remainder of the game, Delanie Gourley took over and was brilliant! She tossed five innings of one-hit ball while striking out four, walking two, and hitting a batter.

Offensively, Florida banged out just five hits. Nicole DeWitt was the only Gator with multiple hits as she went 2-3 with a run scored. Apart from Dewitt, just three other Gators recorded a hit. Kelsey Stewart went 1-3 with a single, Amanda Lorenz went 1-2 with a single, and Aleshia Ocasio went 1-1 with a pinch-hit single.

The Gators' best chance to score came in the bottom of the sixth inning when they had runners on second and third and no outs. Yet somehow, Florida was unable to score due to a first base ground out and a double play line out to the second baseman.

Final Takeaway:
What does this heartbreaking loss mean for the top-ranked Florida Gators? 

Absolutely nothing.

The last two seasons, Florida has been bounced from the SEC Tournament and went on to win the National Championship in both instances. The Gators will return to Gainesville and will still most likely receive the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The big dance starts now, and these girls are ready to go. Let the quest to Oklahoma City and a three-peat begin!

As for No. 4 Auburn, they will face off against the No. 7 seeded LSU Tigers (48-14, 13-11 in SEC play) as they seek to win back-to-back SEC Tournament Championships for the first time in school history. Between both Tigers, I'll go with Auburn for the repeat.

Game time for the SEC Championship is 5 p.m. and it can be seen on ESPN.

*All stats accredited to

UF Baseball: #1 Florida Defeats #7 Vandy in Series Opener

The No. 1 Florida Gators (42-8, 17-7 in SEC play) won a thrilling series opener over the No. 7 Vanderbilt Commodores (36-14, 14-11 in SEC play) by a score of 4-2!

Making what many assumed to be his last ever regular season start at home, Logan Shore (10-0, 2.29 ERA) was absolutely dynamic! Florida's junior ace tossed his third complete game of the season and allowed two earned runs on six hits while striking out six, walking none, and hitting a batter. When it was all said and done, Shore had thrown a career-high 107 pitches!

Offensively, Florida banged out just five hits tonight. However, three of them came in a crazy seventh inning. Prior to this inning, Vandy ace Jordan Sheffield (7-4, 2.34 ERA) was cruising. He had allowed just one run on two hits while striking out five, with the only extra base-hit being a Buddy Reed double in the second inning. When the seventh rolled around though, all of that changed.

Peter Alonso led off the inning getting hit by a pitch. After him, Buddy Reed recorded his second hit of the game and singled Alonso to third. Upon reaching third, Alonso was pulled for pinch runner Eddie Demurias.

Now, with runners on first and third and the Gators down 2-1, freshman Deacon Liput strode to the plate. Hitless in the game to this point, Liput smacked a 3-1 pitch off the right field wall for a game-tying double.

As Liput reached second, Buddy Reed overran third base and was caught in a rundown. Fighting to avoid an easy out, Reed forced Vandy to make two throws before dashing towards the plate. When Reed broke for the plate, Vandy pitcher Jordan Sheffield double-clutched the throw and Reed slid under Will Toffey's tag to score the go-ahead run for the Gators! Needless to say I went crazy seeing all this unfold.

To add icing to the cake, Liput advanced to third during the pickle. He would later score on Nelson Maldonado's one-out single to extend the lead to 4-2.  Fittingly, Maldonado plated both the game's first and final runs as he had knocked in Buddy Reed with an RBI groundout in the second. 

In addition to picking up his second RBI of the contest, Nelly would steal his second base of the season just a couple pitches later. 

Besides Reed and the two freshmen, the only other Gator to record a hit was JJ Schwarz. He was 1-4 with a single in the first inning.

Final Takeaway:
The No. 1 Florida Gators have now taken over first place in the SEC East after an impressive win and No. 8 South Carolina's (37-12, 16-8 in SEC play) 3-0 loss to No. 2 Texas A&M (38-10, 17-8 in SEC play). Before previewing Game 2 of the Vandy series, here are my final tidbits from a memorable Game 1:

  • Buddy Reed went down in the bottom of the fourth inning with what looked like an apparent knee injury after he stepped on first base awkwardly. It was feared that maybe his season was over due to a hyper-extended knee, but this was far from true. Buddy trotted back to center field in the next half inning, and then scored the go-ahead run two innings later.
  • Third baseman Jonathan India made an incredible diving stop in the top of the fifth inning, but first baseman Peter Alonso was unable to dig out his throw to complete the play. Vandy would score their only two runs in this inning.
  • Peter Alonso made a couple of nice defensive plays as well, but he would be replaced by Christian Hicks in the eighth inning due to some type of injury to his left hand.
  • Two Vandy players had multiple hits, Julian Infante (2-4 with a run scored) and Will Toffey (2-4 with a run scored).
  • Peter Alonso tagged Vandy shortstop Connor Kaiser so hard on a back pick that it made Kaiser's face bleed. He would remain in the game, but was also out on the pickoff.
  • Kaiser was not Mike Rivera's only victim on the base paths tonight, as the sophomore also threw out Will Toffey trying to steal second base in the second inning. 
  • Florida has now won three straight games against Vandy dating back to last season. This is also the Gators' first home win against the Commodores since May 8th of 2014!
  • Speaking of winning, Florida won its 42nd game tonight. That's a NEW SCHOOL RECORD for regular season victories!

After Shore's masterful performance, the Gators are in prime position to win the regular season series over Vandy for the second straight season! The Gators will call on junior lefty A.J. Puk (2-2, 3.04 ERA) to get the job done and officially eliminate Vandy from SEC East contention. 

That of course is easier said than done, as Puk has not won at the Mac since March 19th against Missouri. The Commodores will counter with sophomore right hander Kyle Wright (6-3, 1.89 ERA), who has won his last two starts.

Game time for the potential series clincher is 4 p.m. It can bee seen on ESPN2 and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

*All stats accredited to

Friday, May 13, 2016

UF Softball: #1 Florida Advances to SEC Semifinals

For the second consecutive season, the No.1 seeded Florida Gators (53-4, 20-4 in SEC play) have reached the SEC Tournament Semifinals after defeating the No. 9 seeded Ole Miss Rebels (39-20, 11-13 in SEC play) by a score of 1-0 last night.

Freshman Kelly Barnhill (15-1, 1.26 ERA) got her first taste of postseason action as she tossed 4.1 innings of one-hit ball while striking out six and walking two. She would be pulled for Aleshia Ocasio in the top of the fifth inning.

Once Ocasio entered, it was much of the same for Florida. The sophomore threw 2.2 innings of no-hit relief while striking out six and walking just one.

Florida's pitching staff did its job, but the offense was stymied as the Gators left nine runners on base. Not one player had an RBI tonight. Instead, the Gators caught a break in the bottom of the fifth.

Senior Kelsey Stewart led off the inning with a double, then advanced to third base on an error by Rebel center fielder Miranda Strother. The succeeding batters in freshman Amanda Lorenz and sophomore Kayli Kvistad were walked, bringing up Kirsti Merritt with the bases loaded. Unfortunatley the senior could not get the job done, as she struck out swinging for the inning's first out.

Next up was sophomore Nicole DeWitt, who has a knack for postseason heroics. However, DeWitt would not have to do anything as Rebel catcher Courtney Syrett allowed a passed ball. Stewart would score from third, and the Gators had gotten all the run support that they needed.

Stewart (1-4) was one of three Gators with a hit today. Her double was also the only extra base hit of the night, as sophomore Janell Wheaton (1-3) singled and junior Justine McLean (2-2) notched a pair of singles.

Final Takeaway:
With this win, the No.1 Florida Gators will now turn their attention to the winner of the Auburn/Alabama game. Due to the weather, the softball edition of the Iron Bowl had to be postponed until 11 a.m. on Friday.

Before previewing the semifinal, here are my final tidbits from the Gators' thrilling quarterfinal victory:

  • The game was five hours and eight minutes long and finished a little before 9:45 p.m. because of two rain delays in the top of the third inning.
  • The Gators walked six times in the contest!
  • Speaking of six, the Gators have now won six straight games over Ole Miss (outscoring the Rebels 37-6 in that span)!
  • The only Ole Miss player to record a hit was freshman outfielder Kylan Becker. She singled to leadoff the top of the fifth inning.

Regardless of who wins between Auburn (46-9, 16-7 in SEC play) and Alabama (46-11, 16-8 in SEC play), Florida will have the advantage for two reasons. First, the Gators are the best team in the country. Second, the Gators have a fresh squad going up against an opponent who will be fatigued to some degree. If these hold true, Florida should find themselves in the SEC Championship with a fourth tournament title in sight.

Looking at matchups, the Gators went 2-1 against Auburn and 1-2 against Alabama during the regular season. Game time for the semifinal is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May 13th, and it can be seen on ESPNU.

*All stats accredited to